Friday, July 27, 2007

Our national religion: Moral Theraputic Deism

I get frustrated with relativism. It's one of the reasons that I hate the term "Happy Holidays" around Christmastime. If someone affirms that "all religions are true and good," that person hasn't studied religion very much. There's no way that the mutually exclusive truth-claims of, for example, Christianity and Islam can be true at the same time. Either Jesus is God, or he isn't. It's like a rabbi told me in a class at Vanderbilt once: "You can't be half-pregnant."

It's in this spirit of frustration with "wishy-washiness" that Rod Dreher writes in the Dallas Morning News:
Acknowledging that people have a right to be wrong about God is a moral breakthrough for humanity, an idea that should be spread.

It's wrong and dangerous, though, to expect a religious believer to affirm that all beliefs about God could be equally true – which is what Benedict's critics really demand. To do so would be to empty religion of its deepest meaning – to turn it into something that's merely socially or personally useful.

That's where American religion is headed, however. Several years ago, researchers with the University of North Carolina's National Study of Youth and Religion polled American teenagers and found that faith was important to them. But it's faith not in established religion but rather in what NYSR's social scientists termed "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, as researchers explain, teaches that a vaguely defined God exists, cares about us and wants us to be good, nice and fair. You don't need to get too involved with God, absent a problem or crisis. The point of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. Good people go to heaven.

Whatever that relativist mush is, it has little to do with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or any traditional religion. Researchers concluded that either American youths don't know their traditions' teaching, or don't much care. Strikingly, they found that many teenagers interviewed had never discussed theology with an adult. The theological content of our faiths is fast eroding because of the lazy indifference of older generations to whom the traditions were delivered.
I hope that I am not yet as frustrated as this author seems to be; but I must confess that I do harbor some anger with those who would expect me, as a person of faith, to tell someone that they have "truth" when that "truth" denies what I believe to be True.

Someone, somewhere, has got to be right -- and that means that someone must be wrong.

FEELING: Ready for the weekend
LISTENING TO: Not much at all, actually


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